This is part 10 of our series called “Inspired By Sound,” where writers use a song as the muse for their story. This piece by Chase Stokes takes influence from "Breathe" by Lauv.
We spent an autumn week in New York City, me with a camera and you with a smile that gave life back to the leaves. Most of the pictures from that trip were the back of your head and your middle finger. I did manage to capture your sheepish half-smile in one, your head thrown back laughing in another. You must have cursed me out in front of every landmark in the city, and with every expletive, I fell more in love with you.
Despite the chilly air, the rocks in Central Park were always warm from the sun, and we stretched out on them like cats, bellies up and eyes closed. Your hands were cold, so you pressed them to the back of my neck and laughed at the way my body tensed. I braved the ice of your fingers and never asked you to move. We might have sat there for hours, but too much of New York waited for us, unexplored.
Our shoes learned the pavement well, the soles of mine worn smooth by the end. When each day ended, we rode the bus over to the river – headphones split between us, your head resting on a pillow made out of my sweatshirt. Each night, I nudged you awake when the brakes squealed at our stop. Those nights, we lived inside a film, everything picturesque and settled. The music swelled in the background, the camera panned away from the window, and I woke you the next morning with a kiss on your forehead.
That week ended. We flew miles away from the turning leaves of Central Park, returning to stretching fields of grain and bitter winds. Somehow, we left a part of us in New York City. Our feet got used to the concrete at home, but it wore holes in us instead of our shoes. The rocks in our parks were too sharp to lay on, the bus rides too bumpy. There were no skyscrapers where we lived, and we became smaller to match the landscape.
Now, we live hundreds of miles apart, love spreads too thin over this distance. I can’t remember how your voice sounds, and you’ve forgotten how my cologne smells. Last week would have been our anniversary, but it passed unseen. I’m not the person you used to love, and I’ve stopped trying to be him. Silence stretches the lengths of the country, tense between us.
We left our love etched in the bricks of New York City. We left our kisses on the side of the Statue of Liberty, our smiles on Ellis Island. I left your voice in Times Square, you left my scent in the seats of a Broadway theatre. I left the feeling of your hands in a taxicab, you left the color of my eyes in a rowboat in Central Park. We left our laughter in a restaurant on Sixth, our inside jokes on the corner of Eighth and 23rd. Tourists will find upon your singing in Little Italy, and they can search for the scar on my forehead in Grand Central Station.
I can point to when I fell in love with you on a map of Manhattan. I hope one day you go back, stumble upon the way I looked at you somewhere on the Ellis Island ferry. If you need me to, I can make you a map. You can pick up the pieces of us, and we can throw them into the Hudson River or frame them or put them back. We can let them be, and let others find them, take them if they need. You can take them if you need. Just leave me a few.